A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.
This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.
It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.
For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.
However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.
Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.
There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.
However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.
A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.
Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.
There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.
Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.
Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.
I wasn’t really a fan of the book, so I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to like the movie much. I do think that the casting looks great.
I had issues with the HFR during the first 10 minutes where I forgot to listen to what was happening, with my brain only processing what I was seeing, but I got used to it pretty quickly. In general I liked seeing it and thought it was more effective during darker scenes and fast moving action pieces. But I can understand why people don’t like it.
It was a shame we really didn’t get to know the new characters well and the dwarfs were not memorable at all. Scored it about the same as you did.
I got used to the HFR after a while but it was pretty disorientating to start with, everything seemed to be moving at double speed. It did also cheapen the CGI at times too. I enjoyed the film though, even though it was quite as interesting as LOTR, but it’s a different story and Jackson can only do so much with the material. Nice review Dan.
That’s interesting about the 48 fps. Having not seen a movie shot that way I would have expected loving it but I see what you mean about making what’s on the screen clearer but a little less real. That would bother me too. And I’m disappointed to hear there wasn’t much character development among the dwarves. I would have thought they would have been more of a focal point being that the journey is about getting their land back. Maybe in the next two movies there will be. Great write up!
Haven’t talked to any people who actually like the 48 fps. It makes everything look too surreal. Though it does work well in the prologue where it plays nicely off the storybook vibe. I was surprised by the appearance of Ian Holm and Elijah Wood in the beginning. It was nice to see them, but Jackson is a bit heavy-handed with directly connecting The Hobbit to Fellowship. I very much enjoy this movie as a swashbuckling adventure film and feel like the 2 hours and forty-five minutes goes by fast. As someone who isn’t a big LoTR fanboy, I feel like this movie is much more accessible. I agree that I wish we could get to know the dwarves better. The only one who gets much development is Thorin. I was taken aback by how well-done their songs are. Great review Dan!
Well, I was being an oldie and went to see it in plain old 2D. I wanted to be able to enjoy the film and the story more than anything else. The visual spectacle, for me, comes from the actual visuals captured not how they’re projected to me.
I do very much agree with your review – didn’t have the emotion or depth of feeling that Fellowship had and yet there seemed to be an insistence for them to make The Hobbit mimic FOTR on so many occasions. Felt too action adventure-y rather than the story that it is.
Saying that, still enjoyed it. Just didn’t quite hit the mark.
hey man, crackin review yo and i have to say i agree with most of you points. i never got the chance to see it in 48fps, though i may do it in the future if i can find a cinema that does it. i thought the film was badass and i’d have to say i enjoyed the film a little more than you did, if you like you could check out my review here: http://hypersonic55.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-review/
So disappointed to hear the 48fps didn’t work out! I’m still excited to see it, but I’m a little peeved that its a 3 hour movie with TWO additional ones coming. The book is friggin’ 320 pages! Kind of silly. Either way, it’ll be good to see Gandalf, Gollum, etc. Great review!
I didn’t watch the 48 FPS / 3D versions, so my review covered just the basic movie. I agree with you that most of the dwarfs lacked any personality. There was Thorin (trying very hard to be Aragorn), the gray haired one (Balin?) and the one that tried to talk Bilbo out of leaving (Fili?).
The rest of the dwarfs ran around like circus clowns coming out of a clown car.
It’s surprising that Jackson was able to clearly define all 9 members of the Fellowship, yet unable to distinguish more than 3 of the 13 dwarfs.
Loved the film but disliked the 48fps, just didn’t look right. I’m happy Middle Earth is back on the big screen though. Good review Dan, check out mine here: http://alexmovieblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-hobbit-unexpected-journey-3d-hfr.html
Awesome review! I think I’m gonna catch this one on DVD, the fact they stretched one book to 3 movies pisses me off and it just looks pretty average.
Good review and a pretty fair assessment of the film. I felt it was a notch below the LOTR films, but then I would say the same about the books, too.
For what it’s worth, I saw this in good old fashioned 2D 24fps and guess what? There’s still a negative effect from the 48fps filming. I noticed quite a bit of blurring when the camera was panning quickly, especially during the opening sequence with Erebor. I posted a question about it on IMDB and quite a few people responded by saying they had noticed the same thing. Finally, someone did quite a technical post explaining how the motion blur captured at 48fps would not translate as well to a 24fps presentation. It turns out there may be no way to see as good a visual presentation of the Hobbit films as there was the LOTR films.
Heh, yeah, I fell into the same curiosity trap as you concerning the frame rate, and sadly, it resulted in The Hobbit being the first movie I’ve ever had to walk out of. I just couldn’t handle it, it distracted me completely from enjoying a single bit of what I saw, and it absolutely infuriated me. I’ll still give The Hobbit a proper chance at some point, but the high frame rate pissed me off so bad that I’m gonna have to put some distance between myself and this movie first, lol.
Rental? Cmon Dannnn…. LOL
I just waonder what everyone (youre not the only one) complaining about the run time was expecting… you know its a Peter Jackson epic, right? That guy thinks 2:45 is a SHORT movie, you know youre there for the long haul!
I did think it was “epic” I really did. Guess this is one of those that I’m going to be the main cheeleader for. 😦
Great review man. I didn’t see the movie in 48fps but Im glad I didn’t after reading your review. Check out my review when you get a chance http://rec45.wordpress.com/
“…but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along…”
Agreed. I was concerned at first, but by the end I was hooked!
I loved it! I found it to be a gorgeously filmed, rousing adventure story. It felt good to be back in Middle Earth and the time went by too fast, for me. Now, I am ready for the next chapter! Can’t wait!
Like always, nice write-up! 🙂
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While it did have it’s problems it was a fun return to middle earth. Check out my review http://www.ryanhawbecker.com/2012/12/the-hobbit-unexpected-journey-movie.html?spref=tw …
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